It’s hard to figure out this team. One thing they have going for them though is that they don’t tend to quit on games. It seems like most Kings games this season have come down to the wire, regardless of if either team involved had a big lead at one point or the other (and given it’s the Kings, it’s usually the other team that had a big lead). Against the Bulls, the Kings came back from 27 points down to tie the game before ultimately losing and against Atlanta the Kings did manage to complete a 22 point comeback. Those games sandwiched perhaps the best team effort of the season against Boston. All in all it was a good week but it could have been a great one if they stopped digging themselves into big holes.
The High Post
The win against the Boston Celtics might not have been the biggest win of the season (wins against Golden State and Cleveland rate better) but it just might have been the most fun. Playing without DeMarcus Cousins, the team came together as a cohesive unit and just played 48 minutes of team basketball. The offense looked good, the defense looked good, and almost everyone who stepped onto the floor contributed.
Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore in particular continued their excellent play as of late. McLemore has gotten more and more confident with his shot and more importantly, it’s starting to go in. Willie is showcasing a more skilled offensive repertoire, both in the post and in his passing game. In fact, Willie had 8 assists in three games this week including this beauty to Darren Collison.
Trill threading the needle on the give and go! pic.twitter.com/hHIblMLc8c— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 9, 2017
It was nice to see the whole team step up like that. If the Kings can figure out how to get everyone involved like that on a consistent basis with DeMarcus Cousins on the floor too, they’ll be a lot more dangerous.
The Low Post
We haven’t hit the All-Star break yet but DeMarcus Cousins has already hit the NBA’s technical foul limit for the season. That’s never happened this quickly before. Cousins now has to spend the entire remainder of the season walking on eggshells so as not to miss more time. That won’t be an easy task for him, and in his first game back from his suspension he seemed to be in a funk as a result. As he told media after the game:
"I don't know how to be myself anymore," - DeMarcus Cousins on battling how to be aggressive while not getting into trouble with officials— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) February 11, 2017
But Cousins needs to learn how to be himself without the constant complaining. He needs to learn how to channel that frustration positively, so maybe being at the limit this early is a good thing. We’ll see. The Kings have 28 games left and are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs. They can’t afford to have Cousins miss more time if they want to get there.
The View From Section 214
Number crunching at the 2/3 point of the season:
The Kings currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference and possess the 10th worst record in the NBA. They are 2.5 games out of the 8th playoff seed. They are 5 games clear of having the worst record in the West.
The Kings are 22-32, which projects out to a season-ending record of 33-49. This is where I predicted them in the pre-season, so if we know one thing, we know that they will not finish 33-49. This team would finish 32.5-49.5 just to spite me.
The Kings are 9-18 vs. teams vs. the 13 teams that are above .500, and 13-14 vs. the 16 teams that are below .500. Of their remaining 28 games, 12 come against teams that are above .500, and 16 come against teams that are below .500. Based on the season to date, this would project out to a record 34-48.
The Kings are 11-15 at home and 11-17 on the road. They have 13 remaining road games and 15 remaining home games. Projected out to the end of the season, this would put the Kings at 33-49.
Denver currently sits in the 8th playoff spot. Using the same formulas, the Nuggets would project to finish 37-45, 37-45, and 37-45. Interesting to note that the Nuggets have been worse than the Kings against +.500 teams (6-18) and better against -.500 teams (18-11), and they have done a much better job of protecting the home floor (14-12) while being slightly worse on the road (10-17). The difference between these two teams at this point from a record standpoint is protecting the home floor and winning the games that you have a better statistical chance of winning.
The Kings and the Nuggets play each other three more times this season, all within the next month: 2/23 in Sacramento, 3/6 in Denver and 3/11 in Sacramento.
Team to watch: The Mavericks are 10-5 over their last 15 games. This includes a 4-3 road record and a 3-2 record over .500 teams. They are currently 21-32, a half-game behind the Kings. The Mavs play 15 of their final 29 games at home, and 15 of their 29 opponents have losing records. The Mavs and Kings meet one more time this season, 4/4 in Sacramento.
On the other side of the coin, the Kings are now a game out of the 11th lottery spot, looking up at a struggling Portland team and a wounded Milwaukee club. The Kings maintain a 2.5 game lead over Philadelphia as it pertains to a potential pick swap. For those concerned about the possibility of a swap occurring, it would be far worse for the Sixers to wind up with the 10th pick and the Kings to wind up 11th, as the Bulls would then be awarded the Kings pick. If the Kings wind up 10th and the Sixers 11th, the Bulls are then awarded the Kings 2nd round pick and the swap between the Kings and Sixers is then executed. There is no carry over on the swap rights – they extinguish this year whether they are used or not.
If the pick is your thing, it is actually better for the Sixers to overtake the Kings and drop the Kings further in the standings. Retaining the pick would be the first priority. Worrying about the swap ramifications would come after that. (By the way, if the Sixers play at the same clip that they have been playing at since January 1, they would finish 34-48. If they play to their season numbers, they would finish at 29-53. My guess would be 30-31 wins for them at most.)
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Highlight of the Week
Player of the Week
20.7 PTS, .520 FG%, .500 3P%, 4.7 AST, 2.7 STL, 1.7 REB in 39.1 MPG
Ever since Rudy Gay went down with injury, Darren Collison has stepped it up a notch in terms of finding his own offense. Collison is actually a supremely efficient scorer, coming in at 48.3% from the field and 42.2% from three for the season. He’s a bit choosy with his shot attempts though, rarely taking contested shots. I’d personally like to see him shoot more, especially as he’s one of the better three point shooters on the team and should be averaging more than just 2.9 attempts per game. It will be very interesting to see how the Kings handle Collison at the deadline because there are a lot of teams that should be interested him. If the Kings do choose to keep him, I wouldn’t be surprised if they choose to bring him back on a decent contract as they’re probably one of the few teams that would offer him a starting job and even if they draft a young Piont Guard, they’ll still need a veteran to run the show. Then again, that’s only if the Kings don’t do something stupid like offering Derrick Rose a max contract.
Feb. 12th vs. New Orleans Pelicans at 6 p.m.
Feb. 14th at L.A. Lakers at 7:30 p.m.
Feb 15th at Golden State Warriors at 7:30 p.m.